Water levels in the wetlands and sinkholes have fluctuated widely over the past week with the extreme heat and evaporation during the day followed by evening thunderstorms. Despite all the rain, mosquitoes populations are still notably quite low likely from the recent county wide aerial spraying. This nice hatch out of leaf footed bugs on dotted smartweed was captured this past week in the very ephemeral wetlands near the sinkhole.
After a recent question to this blog about Six-lined Racerunners (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) I have been on the look out to capture some new pictures. So far most of these zippy little racerunners have lived up to their name and eluded me…they are just too wary and too darn fast! I snapped this very sizeable lizard in some marginal habitat near the more open sandhill. I estimated it was around 8 inches in length which puts it close to their top size of around 9 inches. Plans for a tripod, umbrella and a day of patience camped out in the sandhill are in the works to get some better shots to share with our Back Woods friends.
It is a great time to take walk through the sandhill. It literally is awash in the bright golden yellow blossoms of the partridge pea! Then top that off with some bright yellow sulpher butterflies flitting between each partridge pea plant laying their eggs and bees of all sorts trying to visit every flower with pollen sacks so loaded they can barely fly. It is quite a site!
The gopher tortoise are really active this time of year as well…new burrows of all sizes, including some itty bitty ones, are popping up in the western sandhill so watch your step. A pair of larger tortoises in one burrow leads us to hope we will have more little ones in the spring. Please be sure to give the aprons of any burrows a wide birth, female gopher tortoise often lay their eggs in the apron or close by.
And a set of young quadruplets are busy tearing up the woods on the south side of the property…fresh burrows with a rounded entrance (gopher tortoise burrow entrances are oval) are a good indication of an armadillo. With a delightfully descriptive scientific name…Dasypus novemcinctus…roughly translated to something like rabbit or hare with nine girdles (oh, my)…we find it hard not to like these curious critters. Unfortunately, they are not native to Florida. They made their way here from the Mexico and Texas as land development and modification of rivers made their travels easier and made their way from south Florida via introduction from the pet and novelty trade. These omnivorous mammals will consume most any invertebrate they come across. Of concern to us is that they are a documented as predator of gopher tortoise eggs. So far it seems these four prefer the insect rich litter beneath the oak hammock to the exposed sun baked sandhill.
Send us your pictures of your favorite things in the Back Woods and we’ll share them in our blog or post them on Facebook! www.facebook.com/thelongleaf